Home > Uncategorized > Obama’s Misguided Measurement of Colleges Collapses… but US News and World Marches On

Obama’s Misguided Measurement of Colleges Collapses… but US News and World Marches On

September 13, 2015

Today’s NYTimes reported that President Obama has decided to withdraw his proposal to establish a ranking system for colleges and tie those rankings to the issuance of federal loans… a decision that was greeted with virtually universal relief by college presidents across the country. In recounting the reactions to the President’s announced plan, Michael Shear wrote:

Officials at many schools said the government had no business competing with college rating services like those offered by U.S. News and World Report. Many chose blunt language to describe what they said was a misguided effort by Mr. Obama and his administration.

Charles L. Flynn Jr., the president of the College of Mount St. Vincent in the Bronx, called the president’s idea “uncharacteristically clueless.” Adam F. Falk, the president of Williams College in Massachusetts, predicted that it would be “oversimplified to the point that it actually misleads.” And Kenneth W. Starr, who is the president of Baylor University in Waco, Tex., and who, as a prosecutor, led the investigations of President Bill Clinton, called it “quite wrongheaded.”

The fact that “officials at many schools” cited the US News and World Report’s college rating services as exemplary is nearly as disheartening as the President’s notion that salaries after graduation are a worthy metric for a good education. In Excellent Sheep, William Deresiewicz skewers the effect the US News and World Report has had on college admissions and, consequently, on the whole culture of high schools as students strive to jump mindlessly over hurdles to gain a seat in the colleges with the highest ratings. In the book Deresiewicz describes how parents “help” their children build their resumes by overloading on AP courses, committing them to community service projects, and insisting that they participate in extra-curriculars. By the time these students reach college, they have not thought about WHY they want to attend college… except that they know getting into an “elite college” will help them earn more money…

Which leads us to the metrics in the web site the President is launching that “…provides information to prospective students and their parents about annual costs, graduation rates and salaries after graduation.” Despite the pushback from advocates of a liberal arts education like Deresiewicz, the President insists that salaries after graduation is a crucial consideration. Alas, earning piles of money has never been shown to lead to fulfillment or happiness… but since neither fulfillment or happiness can be measured or require spending they are not worthy of consideration in weighing which college to attend or what courses to take once one is in college.

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